Celebrating Fresh Blood

The Red Sox and Rangers are not going to the playoffs this year. The Yankees and Cardinals are barely above .500 and not guaranteed to play in October. The Braves are in a free fall, watching their postseason hopes dwindle with every 27th out.

For fans of those teams, particularly the first two, this may not be a thrilling baseball season. For the rest of the baseball-loving world, it doesn’t get much better. There’s a real chance that some team will end a long World Series drought this year, and that other teams will end various playoff droughts as well.

Let’s take a look at the thirteen teams with the best odds of winning a World Series (at least 1.5%) and what the past several years have been like for those teams:

1. Washington Nationals (96.8% chance of making playoffs, 18.4% chance of winning World Series)

Last championship: Never

Last World Series appearance: Never

Last LCS appearance: Never

Last playoff appearance: 2012

The Montreal Expos’ two best seasons both happened in strike years: 1981 and 1994. The Nationals’ best year came in 2012, when they had the best record in baseball, only to lose the NLDS in five games to the Cardinals. Fangraphs gives them a 35 percent chance of cracking their first NLCS in any city in 2014.

2. Oakland Athletics (99.8%, 15.3%)

Last championship: 1989

Last World Series appearance: 1990

Last LCS appearance: 2006

Last playoff appearance: 2013

The A’s have been a fixture in October for much of the two and a half decades since Eck and the Bash Brothers carried them to their last title. They’ve lost the ALDS to the Tigers each of the last three seasons, and may face them again if the Royals hold off Detroit for the division and the Tigers beat the Angels in the Wild Card game.

3. Detroit Tigers (76.2%, 12.8%)

Last championship: 1984

Last World Series appearance: 2012

Last LCS appearance: 2013

Last playoff appearance: 2013

The Tigers seemed like a better team than the Red Sox last fall, when Boston took advantage of a porous bullpen to strike back after getting no-hit well into each of the first two LCS games. They looked like a better team than the Giants in 2012 when the Giants pounced on Justin Verlander and never looked back in sweeping the Series. They looked like a far better team than the 2006 Cardinals, who exploited errors by various pitchers to win in five games. This year, they’ll need to keep the relievers off the field as much as possible to conquer the demons that have kept them from October glory since Trammell, Whitaker, and Willie Hernandez.

4. Los Angeles Dodgers (98.8%, 12.5%)

Last championship: 1988

Last World Series appearance: 1988

Last LCS appearance: 2013

Last playoff appearance: 2013

I know what you’re thinking. Tigers? Dodgers? I thought this piece was about the usual suspects not being in the hunt this year.

Did you realize the Dodgers haven’t even been to the World Series in 26 years? They seem to be the best team in the NL every year, particularly since Magic Johnson and the ownership group decided to spend all of the money on all of the talent. But they lost the NLCS in 2009 and 2013 and actually missed the playoffs each of the three interceding years. Kirk Gibson and Orel Hershiser provided the last magical baseball memories in Hollywood. I’d guess Clayton Kershaw and Yasiel Puig will provide the nest ones, perhaps this fall.

5. Los Angeles Angels (97.1%, 9.4%)

Last championship: 2002

Last World Series appearance: 2002

Last LCS appearance: 2009

Last playoff appearance: 2009

Setting aside the Rangers’ brief flirtation with success, when the A’s don’t win the AL West, the Angels do. It hasn’t been all that long since David Eckstein and Francisco Rodriguez hoisted the trophy, but consider this: The Marlins have won a World Series more recently. The Astros have played in a World Series more recently. And the Twins have made the playoffs more recently.

6. Baltimore Orioles (90%, 7.6%)

Last championship: 1983

Last World Series appearance: 1983

Last LCS appearance: 1997

Last playoff appearance: 2012

Now we’re back to the real droughts. Jim Palmer was on the last Orioles team to play in the World Series. Cal Ripken still had hair in 1983. Jimmy Key and Chris Hoiles were on the last Orioles team that won a playoff series.

7. St. Louis Cardinals (67.6%, 4.5%)

Last championship: 2011

Last World Series appearance: 2013

Last LCS appearance: 2013

Last playoff appearance: 2013

Ok, ignore this one. But note that the Cards are a third place team, as close to the eighth-best record in the NL than to the division-leading Brewers.

8. Pittsburgh Pirates (69.5%, 4.3%)

Last championship: 1979

Last World Series appearance: 1979

Last LCS appearance: 1992

Last playoff appearance: 2013

Since the days of Stargell and Parker and Blyleven and Tekulve, the Pirates have flirted with greatness only during the Barry Bonds years, each of which ended in heartbreak. Last year’s team made the playoffs for the first time in 21 years. This year’s team could make the World Series for the first time in 35.

9. Kansas City Royals (46.4%, 2.9%)

Last championship: 1985

Last World Series appearance: 1985

Last LCS appearance: 1985

Last playoff appearance: 1985

Well, that was clean and easy. Exit Brett and Quiz, exit Kansas City’s playoff hopes. Fangraphs’ projections don’t put as much stock in the Royals’ current division lead as they do in the Tigers’ better players. If the bullpen and the defense can carry the Royals even as far as the Wild Card game, they’d be in territory unchartered since Eric Hosmer and Greg Holland were born.

10. Seattle Mariners (42.5%, 2.7%)

Last championship: Never

Last World Series appearance: Never

Last LCS appearance: 2001

Last playoff appearance: 2001

The turn-of-the-millennium Mariners employed Ken Griffey, Jr., Randy Johnson, Alex Rodriguez, and Ichiro Suzuki, four of the 75 or so best players ever to play the game. The latter three were gone by 2001, but Ichiro’s first Mariners team won an all-time record 116 games. The playoffs are cruel in their fickleness, as 116 wins guarantee nothing but a chance to play a few more. Seattle would likely have to topple the superior Angels, A’s, and Tigers to make their first World Series this year. It’s not probable, but it’s possible.

11. San Francisco Giants (50.3%, 2.3%)

Last championship: 2012

Last World Series appearance: 2012

Last LCS appearance: 2012

Last playoff appearance: 2012

You can ignore this one too. The Giants can’t buy a win these days, but they’re still coasting off a great first half and none of the other NL Wild Card contenders seems interested in keeping them from defending their even-year title.

12. Milwaukee Brewers (69.8%, 2.2%)

Last championship: Never

Last World Series appearance: 1982

Last LCS appearance: 2011

Last playoff appearance: 2011

The last time the Brewers made the playoffs, Ryan Braun was still popular. The last time they won a series, everyone in baseball had a moustache. When Harvey’s Wallbangers led that World Series three games to two, Brewers fans probably thought they’d see another World Series game in one league or the other in the next thirty years. Oops.

13. Toronto Blue Jays (21.5%, 1.5%)

Last championship: 1993

Last World Series appearance: 1993

Last LCS appearance: 1993

Last playoff appearance: 1993

In the mid-’90s, the Blue Jays were baseball’s most powerful force, back-to-back defending champs with pockets as deep as anyone. Then they stopped playing baseball for a while. When baseball came back, the Blue Jays weren’t good anymore. And that’s all we’ve known since.

This year’s Jays lost some ground by losing their last two in Seattle after finishing a 19-inning win against Detroit on Sunday. Still, they’re one of 13 teams with at least a 1.5 percent chance of winning it all this year, better than the Braves or Yankees.

This could be the first season since 1993 when neither the Yankees nor the Red Sox plays in the postseason. It’s time for someone else to take the reins. One of the above teams will.

This entry was posted in Angels, Athletics, Blue Jays, Brewers, Cardinals, Dodgers, Giants, Mariners, Nationals, Orioles, Pirates, Royals, Tigers. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Celebrating Fresh Blood

  1. Michael Hoffer says:

    Brewers lost to Cards in 2011 NLCS

  2. Bryan says:

    Good call. I was sure they’d lost to the Cards in the LCS in ’08, when they had Sabathia, but I looked up a few years around that time and never checked ’11. It’s fixed.

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